Alex Tagliani (right), shown here celebrating after winning the GT pole position for the SPF Grand Prix in August, will replace the injured Dario Franchitti in the IndyCar finale Oct. 19 in Fontana, Calif. (Brian Cleary / Getty Images)
Indianapolis — Alex Tagliani has mixed feelings about replacing three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti in the Oct. 19 season-ending IndyCar race at Fontana.
He gets his shot to drive for one of the top teams in the series. But it took an injury for Tagliani to get the seat.
Franchitti remained hospitalized Wednesday with two fractured vertebrae, a broken ankle and a concussion suffered in a last-lap accident Sunday at the Grand Prix of Houston.
“You get the ride knowing one of your friends has been injured, and that’s hard,” Tagliani said Wednesday. “The good thing and the positive thing is Dario is fine and we exchanged emails, and his emails were positive and had a good vibe and it puts you at ease that he is in a good spirit after such a horrible crash.
“That being said, although it’s an atmosphere we all want to avoid, when you are called to replace the primary and you are in the mix of it, it is an amazing opportunity to go there on an important weekend.”
Tagliani will drive the No. 10 Honda for Target Chip Ganassi Racing at Auto Club Speedway in California alongside IndyCar championship leader Scott Dixon. The team will be trying to help Dixon win a third series championship. Dixon takes a 25-point lead over Helio Castroneves into the finale.
Tagliani believes he got the call to replace Franchitti based on experience — he has four previous starts at Fontana, with a pole, three top-10s and a career-best third-place finish — and a willingness to sacrifice personal gain for the goal of the Ganassi team. He was let go by team owner Bryan Herta after 13 races this season, but said he won’t use his shot in the Ganassi car to prove he deserves an IndyCar ride.
“I have to stay very focused at the job ahead. If Dario was in the car, he would go out to support the team and help win the championship,” Tagliani said. “If you look at it as a selfish way, you would go out and prove you still have it. But just that they have selected me, shows something.”
Tagliani said his job at Fontana will be to both help Dixon from a technical standpoint over the course of the race weekend, then to stand between Dixon and Castroneves on the track.
“I’ve got some experience around Fontana and knowing the cars, and it was very important to have a good chemistry aspect with the team,” Tagliani said. “But there are two things they are trying to do here — try to get a car that can steal points away and help get as many points for Scott.”
NASCAR driver Kvapil arrested
NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Travis Kvapil is free on bond following his arrest on charges of assault and false imprisonment.
A statement from the Mooresville Police Department said officers responded to a 911 call from the Kvapil residence on Tuesday. After an investigation, police said they arrested the 37-year-old Kvapil in connection with a domestic dispute between him and his wife. No further details were provided.
Kvapil was released from the Iredell County Jail under a $1,000 unsecured bond after a scheduled court appearance. It’s not known if he has an attorney.
Kvapil, who drives for BK Racing, is currently 31st in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings. No one was available to comment at BK Racing on Wednesday afternoon.
Allmendinger to run IndyCar finale for Penske
AJ Allmendinger will race in the IndyCar season finale for Penske Racing.
Allmendinger will drive the No. 2 Chevrolet with sponsorship from Izod in the Oct. 19 race at Fontana, Calif.
It was the site of Allmendinger’s comeback last year. Team owner Roger Penske had Allmendinger attend the IndyCar season finale as his guest during his NASCAR suspension for failing a random drug test.
Allmendinger was re-instated by NASCAR shortly after, and Penske has entered him in five other IndyCar races this season, including the Indianapolis 500.
Allmendinger led 23 laps at Indianapolis and was out front when he had to make an unplanned pit stop because his seat belt came undone. He still finished seventh.